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Busia Sugar accuses Rai firm of foul play

Jaswant Singh Rai
Businessman Jaswant Singh Rai. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

Busia Sugar Industries Limited has accused businessman Jaswant Singh Rai of using court process to stifle competition amid an ongoing licence war with his miller.

The firm says Mr Rai’s West Kenya Sugar Company has filed multiple suits to frustrate operations of its competitors, citing the example of Butali Sugar Company, which it alleges the businessman has kept tied up in court wrangles in a bid to stall its operations for nearly a decade.

Busia Sugar was responding to a fresh application filed by West Sugar seeking to suspend its licence issued on November 9, on grounds that the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) failed to hear its objection.

“The petitioner herein is notorious for using the judicial process to frustrate its competitors … similarly the petitioner used same tactics to frustrate Butali Sugar Company Limited by filing a barrage of suits that stalled the operations of Butali for nearly a decade,” says Busia Sugar.

West Kenya Sugar Company had in April obtained a court order stopping the AFA from issuing Busia Sugar an operating licence, putting on hold its Sh1.3 billion investment, but High court dismissed the case in November giving the State agency a leeway to issue the permit.

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Busia Sugar has over the past five years been fighting to get a milling licence but numerous court cases existing millers filed seeking to protect their territory crippled its efforts.

Mr Rai in his latest petition claims that the High Court rejected his earlier petition on grounds of allowing the AFA to exercise its statutory duty before it can be challenged in court.

He argues that the authority is bound by the court decision, which directed him to raise his grievances with the regulator that he claims is obliged to hear and determine.

But Busia Sugar Industries says it had started milling with more than 10,000 farmers already benefiting by supplying canes and asked high court to reject Mr Rai’s suit.

The firm further says West Sugar’s production had been interrupted after his milling machine broke down not due to a lack of canes as alleged by Mr Rai.

In opposing the application, Mr Rai had also argued that the rival firm had not obtained a new environmental impact assessment licence after the High Court suspended the previous one in 2016.

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